José Luís Peixoto: Writing takes confidence and will (Zest #65)

José Luís Peixoto interview


José Luís Peixoto is a Portuguese author, poet and playwright. He has received multiple awards for his books and his work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His most recent novel is „Autobiografia” (Pandora M, 2020). I met José in October at FILIT, where he told me about his process, the need to be patient about publishing, and why pain and effort are a neccesary part of writing.


Show notes: 

  • I’m strict about having it all decided before starting to write. If you already know how it ends, you can prepare the details along the way.
  • I take a lot of notes before starting a novel. I fill a few notebook with all kinds of ideas. In the period before writing, I spend a lot of time thinking about this world, putting the characters to test, getting to know them. Then comes the work.
  • I have never given up on a project, but many times I had to restart it. For example, there was a novel that I restarted when I already had 300 pages. Of course, I used a lot of the things I had already written, but I rearranged the whole book.
  • „Autobiografia” is about writing and its difficulties. It puts together an accomplished writer, who has done everything, and a young writer, who has all these dreams but is struggling.
  • I started writing and publishing very young. I self-published my first book when I was 25. Fortunately, I don’t regret what I published, but my advice to young people is to not rush, to no be too impatient. It’s not what I did, but I was lucky.
  • I wrote my first novel without being convinced that I could do it. I needed to prove it to myself. From there, I made a life out of writing.
  • Writing is about time. Publishing does not need to have an urgency most times. When it comes to literature, it’s more advisable to take your time.
  • As a professional writer, the necessity to publish forces you to face the difficulties of writing. Pain is necessary. Effort is necessary. Writing is an exercise of confidence and will.
  • Writing is like running a marathon. There are voices in your head telling you to stop, but you have to keep going.
  • You need a direction, in running and in writing. If not, it doesn’t make sense to just put words one in front of the other. That’s what happened with the books that I had to restart.
  • The value I appreciate most in a text is coherence and unity. It does not mean that it has to be simple and obvious, but it has to make sense to me.

This is the sixth and last interview in a series of discussions from FILIT. Listen to the others in your favorite app and, if you enjoy Zest, support our work. Thank you! 

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